Caring for Aging Parents

As a Chaplain, I’ve visited employees’ parents and have prayed with the family as they work through health issues requiring more caregiving from the adult-children.

Stability Undone

Imagine that you have a way of living, set routines that allow you to connect with your immediate family, work at your own pace, and a sense of stability. Then imagine all of that coming to a halt because of an aging parents’ health condition taking a turn. Work and home life schedules destabilized. Concerns of the health condition, finances, and proximity to the parent are all stress factors that are being worked through in real time.

Nonconstructive Responses to Health Issues

How do we respond to challenges such as our parents going through health concerns? We love and want to honor them during a loss of health (among other losses). Howard Clinebell says that people can respond in ways that actually create more of an emotional tailspin, causing more problems than needed. Here are some nonconstructive responses from people:

  • Denial that a problem exists.
  • Evasion of the problem (via alcohol or drugs, for example).
  • Refusal to seek or accept help.
  • Inability to express or master negative feelings.
  • Failure to explore the nature of the crisis and alternative solutions.
  • Projection onto others of major responsibility for causing and/or curing the crisis.
  • Turning away from friends, family, and other potentially helpful persons.

During health changes with aging parents, adult-children themselves need care, nurture, and supportive skills to manage the crisis. The threat of loss can be stressful and anxiety-ridden. An adult-child will most likely feel grief at a deep level, causing anxiety and a sense of being disoriented as they adjust to new normals.

Clinebell says that:

A crisis occurs within persons when their usual problem-solving activities are ineffective, allowing the stress of unmet need to rise unabated. The stress stems from the deprivation of the satisfaction of some fundamental physical or psychological needs.

Clinebell, Howard,McKeever, Sister Bridget Clare. Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling: Resources for the Ministry of Healing and Growth

A crisis has a way of halting our usual patterns of coping in life, causing a tension of new needs and stresses to figure out how to maneuver.

I’ve seen people have more stress and act out in unhealthy ways when the lack of healthy crisis response skills are not sought.

If the problem is not resolved, the inner stress of unmet needs mounts until it reaches another threshold—the breaking point where major personality disorganization (psychological, psychosomatic, interpersonal, or spiritual illness) occurs.

Clinebell, Howard,McKeever, Sister Bridget Clare. Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling: Resources for the Ministry of Healing and Growth

Finding a New Normal

The best I can do as a chaplain is to help the person think through options and goals during this time. Here is where Clinebell really shines in his approach to helping people cope with the crisis:

  • Facing the problem.
  • Enlarging ones understanding of it.
  • Expressing and working through negative feelings such as resentment, anxiety, and guilt.
  • Accepting responsibility for coping with the problem.
  • Exploring alternative ways of handling it.
  • Separating the changeable from the unchangeable in the situation, and avoiding wasting precious energy by trying to change the unchangeable.
  • Surrendering grandiose, burdensome aspects of one’s self-expectations.
  • Opening channels of communication with helpful people among relatives, friends, and professional persons.
  • Taking steps, however small, to handle the problem constructively.

Christ Jesus Faces Problems

It seems like Jesus models facing problems head on throughout the Gospels. If someone is sick, He visits. If someone dies, He weeps and goes to family’s home. When religious leaders are misusing power, He deals with it directly.

The ultimate problem is the Cross. He wants to avoid it, not face it when He prays to the Father to find an alternative options. During the prayer, He ends up saying, “Not my will but your will be done”. He does this three times!

As a chaplain, I’m trying to help people see the situation for what it is, helping them face the gravity of the problem and then asking God for the wisdom to walk through it with grace, trust, and peace. Options. Possibilities. Reflecting on the type of people we want to be during this time. Seeking meaning.

For me, as I provide care for my family members who are going through health issues, I want to see myself as a person who is safe, loving, and nurturing. I want to be the type of person that knows God longs to equip and help shape my character to reflect Christ in all circumstances. This means sacrificing, seeking a deeper meaning and purpose to the situation, being a faithful presence.

Becoming Intentionally Worthless

“they followed worthless idols and became worthless”
“They lived a “nothing” life and became “nothings”

2 kings 17 (NIV, MSG)

Before I exposit my deep knowledge, I’ve been trying out different ways to read the bible on a daily basis. I’m not the best at it but I’ve been trying different lectionaries. The Daily Lectionary is based off the Book of Common prayer (and if it’s not, please correct me). It has a New Testament Reading, Gospel Reading, Old Testament (OT) Reading, and Psalms readings. There is a thread of themes weaved into the readings. I highly encourage this mode of reading.

Today’s passages were a struggle. I got stuck looking up Asherah polls and worship from the OT. Why would the people of God keep turning to other belief systems when Yahweh was their belief system?

We tend to be inward, self-preservation type of people. Some of it is healthy. Some of it is destructive when it interferes with personal health and communal vitality.

We believe and behave certain ways because we get something out of it. Because it may appear to work in the moment.

I believe that trusting God as the primary source of making meaning in life is vital to who I am and become. And yet there’s a bit of self-preservation in that statement.

I don’t want to have a “worthless” or “nothing” type of life. It just doesn’t sound appealing or a worthy endeavor.

I’m very curious about how we become who we are. It’s something that has fascinated me for years.

How do we become believers of Jesus?

How do we become good musicians?

I saw a very nice BMW car the other day and the license plate decal spelled the words CREATE WEALTH. For that person, wealth was very important. He had his two kids in this great looking and expensive car and it appeared that he learned how to create wealth. I don’t know for sure because all I see is his high priced car. But does that mean he’s wealthy and has learned how to create wealth. And who will he become in the next five years? Is creating wealth going to help him become a “someone” in life, someone worthy?

The Kings passage is contrasted with Peter confessing that he was a sinner and was not very holy. With Peter praying for a deceased woman who comes back to life and then spends a designated amount of time in this new town. With Psalm 66-67 that speak of God’s creative power and our commitment to make vows with God.

The people of Israel sought prosperity by believing in Asherah worship. Peter and the Psalms writer is seeking direction from the God who created all things.

The people of God ended up slavery. The apostle Peter became the head of the church and a martyr for the sake of Christ, the Victorious one.

The people of God wrestled with their beliefs and allegiance.

Peter wrestled with trusting Jesus to be Lord.

There’s that flippin word again: Lord.

What might happen if I follow Jesus? Will I become worthless and live a “nothing” life? It doesn’t seem to be the case. But I still struggle with this followship effort.

Taking the Reality of the Church for Granted

As I’ve been working on church planting, one thing I’ve realized is that the concept of church has to start with God’s heart (mission) for humanity and this world.

If you’ve grown up in church, then sometimes the language of what church is about seems familiar and “known”.

But I’ve noticed that I’ve taken the reality of Church for granted.

What is the purpose of a church?
Why would someone make a decision to be a part of one?
What is God’s heart towards the Church at large and local church?
What is our role in God’s mission for our local city and the world?
What is the work of the church?

I’m not interested in planting another Sunday service in Oceanside. I’d just really like to worship with others, be reminded of who God is and how I might respond in faithfulness.

I’m interested in partnering with others to grow up to be like Christ in life, words, actions, and relationships.

And I’m interested in doing the work of Jesus via the church with others, learning from each other as we submit to the Lordship of Christ.

I don’t have the darnest clue of how to gather folks to figure this out. But I’m praying that the Holy Spirit is at work in the small seed of desire to be an incarnational presence in our city.

This Little Girl

Many times as I’m about to pray or read the bible, I’m anticipating and hoping for a life changing experience. I want the feels, the revelation insights, or the sweet moments of inspiration.

I pray and read thinking that I will find a new insight that will transform my life. If you’ve been in christian culture for a while, you know what I’m talking about so don’t front. 😉

Today, I read 2 Kings 5, 1 Cor. 4, Matthew 5, and Psalm 80. All have great content and something profound to offer. But to be honest, I was riddled by the story in 2 Kings 5. Specifically about “the little girl from Israel”. This “little girl” is juxtaposed by Namaan, a valiant soldier. He has a skin disease but is a man of power. The little girl’s name is not given and she has one line in the whole story that is about to change Namaan’s life.

A little Girl.
One line in the whole story.

Did I forget to mention that she is a slave but instead of seeking revenge, she points Namaan to a possible cure of his skin condition.

Namaan is the enemy: slave owner, soldier who killed the little girls community.

But this little girl from Israel values the heart of Yahweh. She learned it from the great prophet, Elisha.

God doesn’t just want us to obey him. He wants us to value what He values. “This little girl from Israel” learned what God valued and she began to value it too.

Day Dreaming or Daily Depression

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams and listening to others about their dreams. When Brene Brown (famous TEDx speaker and therapist researcher) speaks, it’s like God herself spoke through the prophet! In one of her books, she makes the case that when we squander our gifts and dreams, we become depressed and anxious.

People don’t dream because they may be afraid of failing, which makes them anxious and maybe a little depressed.

But if we don’t listen to our dreams or nurture our gifts, there’s a high probability that we will experience anxiety and depression.

A few years ago, I’d get home from work and think to myself, “Is this all there is to life? Go to work, come home, do the family routine, and go to bed?” I was depressed. I didn’t realize it at the time until I found myself crying one day with a friend.

None of what I’ve said is the major point of this post. But it provides some context for this: “be generous with your life…” (Eugene Peterson).

What is your source in life that is guiding and leading you, your dreams, gifts, and hopes? What or who do you turn to when trying to make sense of this life and world? As I write this, I am hoping you picture me saying these words with fervor, passion, hands opened as a plea to think deeply about this.

The God I can reading about and introduced to through Jesus in the Gospels keeps telling me to let my life shine by being generous to others, by opening up my life to others and that something supernatural happens in the exchange: The Generous God is present and things change.

The other day, I was meeting with a Gen Z’r (someone born between 1995 and 2014). His big concern was financial and work stability. He was only 22 years old and was having anxiety about this. Sociologists have made this observation with this generation.

So we talked about their dreams and aspirations. Nothing came up. So we prayed for a little bit and the person said, “I think I’m so afraid of not having stability that I’ve stopped dreaming! I need to figure this out.”

There was a sense of awe and that something bigger was happening in the room. So we dug deeper, asked more questions, prayed more, listened, and there was more awe.

The Generous God is saying to dream and to be generous with others! Give your talents, dreams, and gifts away to others. Something “AWE” is waiting to happen!

That Time I Spoke/Played To 10,000+ People

[Don’t bypass the + after the number…it gives me more validation]

I should have shaved and cut my hair for Urbana!

When I played drums and led communion at Urbana, I thought I was gonna feel this sense of “I’ve made it”. Luckily, I’ve failed enough times to remember that once you exit the stage, it’s back to normal life.

When I stepped off the stage after communion, I was greeted by friends: my bandmates, new IV staff friends, and the program director (Una). They embraced me (that means “hugged really tight”) and honestly didn’t say many words.

I let the emotion die down and said a small prayer of gratefulness and hoping that students renewed and remembered their commitments to Jesus. That was it.

It feels like our Christian culture praises the stage and those on it. We think stage people are the smartest, most holy, put together people. BAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I sure fooled them! 😉

Honestly, I want to be really smart and articulate. I want the likes on social media and to be trending. But I want it less now than I did in previous years. [I’m not trying to be trendy or “humble” when I say this! I really want the clicks to hopefully make money!). LOL

And then I read passages where Paul tells the people of Corinth that our life of faith is a response to God’s power, not our smarts or emotional footwork.

There’s this concept of wisdom in the bible that somehow comes from God. Wisdom is personified as a “She” in the old testament and it’s calling out to us all the time. And then we hear things like, “If you have ears to hear…”

But here’s the thing (I hate this phrase but it rolls off my tongue more than I want to admit): I’ve had enough experiences in life to teach me that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

The first step in AA is to admit that we’re powerless. Richard Rohr says,

“God seems to have hidden holiness and wholeness in a secret place where only the humble will find it…You will not learn to actively draw upon a Larger Source until your usual resources are depleted and revealed as wanting. In fact, you will not even know there is a Larger Source until your own sources and resources fail you.”

Rohr, Richard. Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (p. 2-3). St. Anthony Messenger Press. Kindle Edition.

Why is the pretense to knowing God or having any inclination of wisdom to live life began with humility? I don’t know! No pun intended. Only that if I pictured myself walking around thinking that I was the smartest and wisest person, I’d be centered on my own self as the sole source.

And there’s the problem! I become the source of wisdom but I’ve made enough mistakes in life to realize I’m not the source.

Jesus spends so much time with the “out-of-luck” down-and-outers, the ones who know they don’t have the resources needed to make due in life.

So I confess as much as I’m aware to God as a way to admit my limitations. I pray in the morning, midday, and evening. Read my bible. Connect with others. Tell Christina when I’ve screwed up (she’s one of my confessors). I go see a therapist. I visit a spiritual director. I struggle to belong to a church community but I show up and sing songs of praise to God, listen to a sermon, and work to be part of communal life.

Praying for wisdom today. Praying to remember that I’m limited in my resources. Praying for deeper wisdom and to see the big picture in all things. Praying for God to help me plant a new church (or more that He plants one and that I can be a part of it). Praying to listen well to others, especially those I hang out with the most (familiarity can sometimes dull curiosity). I just try to pray a lot because it keeps me humble.

Love you all!

The Gospel is Weird

Christians, which literally (and I use this word a lot) means “Like Christ”, believe that Jesus is God in the flesh. We don’t believe that Jesus is like God or just a cool, ethical teacher. No. This person is God in the flesh.

Yes, that’s weird to wrap our heads around. But so are other things like space, the tesla, and the Beatles.

Here’s what’s weird (bizarre, strange, other-worldly) about the Gospel to me: we are a planet of screwy people who actually think that if we can get more money, power, and influence, that we can change things (but mostly to get more power, money, and influence and repeat the cycle). I’m not trying to dumb down society in one paragraph but there is something to the fact that we are a screwy people.

And this Gospel message is saying that there’s a Revolution happening, one where Jesus is the leader who, instead of accumulating more power, money, and influence, Jesus is a person of light, peace, healing, and forgiveness. The Gospel message is that Jesus the Revolutionary is telling us to be people of peace. The anti-story is to be violent, forceful, manipulative, and to look out for yourself.

I had someone call me a few months ago because of an issue they were having in a dating relationship. And after I heard all of the dynamics happening, I realized that both people were so afraid of intimacy that they would manipulate one another to get what they wanted.

“What would it look like to shed light on your real fears and let your partner in on it”, I said to the dude. Men cry ladies! It was transparency (light) that became healing, which lead to peace and forgiveness between them.

I don’t fully get the Gospel all the time. I get so lost in my own darkness, anger, and frustrations. And then like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, something reminds me that Jesus and this Gospel message is about living in transparent/vulnerable light, offering peace to my wife-enemy, seeking healing with broken parts of myself.

Shaming, fits of anger, and violently manipulating others will not work. It’s not true change and revolution.

The message of Jesus to be people of light, peace, healing, and forgiveness almost seems bizarre and strange to us in a society that holds its opinions very tight. We are a “I’m right” type of culture that is scared to let others influence us. I wonder if this is why it seems absurd to let a 2000 year old message influence us…

CCM Drumming. Lord, Help Me

The other day, I played at a worship night event and had lots of fun. I used the house kit: a Ludwig Keystone. I loved this kit. But this isn’t the point.

The worship set was a mixture of some gospel (not hard core, but some), African, and CCM. In all, it was a multi-genre set that was fun.

Afterwords, a few drummers came up and asked about the cymbals and shared some compliments (always a weird thing cuz I want to hear the compliments but I also don’t want the attention). One dude asked me, “Do you play at church”, and my knee jerk response was, “Well, I’m trying not to”. And then I started laughing!

He then asked me, “Cuz it’s too simple?” And honestly, I wanted to say, “Yeah! It’s too simple, dry, boring, and bland”.

But I didn’t. I said, “Well, I do periodically play at churches but I just don’t have much fun doing it right now.” Most churches are playing all the popular worship songs that churches like Bethel, Hillsong, and other mega churches have written. And the genre is this mesh of rock, folk, ballad which we have simply called CCM (contemporary christian music).

I also told him that I grew up playing and attending a church that did musical styles ranging from gospel, r&b, ballads, and latin jazz. That’s what I grew up playing…and still enjoy to this day.

I don’t have anything against CCM music, or the people who have created the songs, or the musicians. In fact, it takes lots of creativity to do what they’ve done. So I have respect for them.

I’ve been in the studio creating some CCM tracks and when I’m doing the creating, it’s MORE fun but it’s not what I prefer to be doing.

In the words of Marie Kondo (Netflix, Tidying Up), the current church music stuff does not bring me any joy. Whatsoever. I don’t blame the creators of CCM or churches that do this style of music.

But I get zero joy out of playing CCM or listening to it.

I’m sharing all of this because I’m frustrated with musical styles at church. Why is it that most churches only do CCM? I mean, really!? There’s some tom stuff at the beginning. Die out at the bridge. Build it back up with toms. And then go into a full blown rhythm at the end.

At this very moment, I wonder if there’s someone from a gospel music church that’s saying, “I wonder why we ONLY do gospel music and not CCM?” Or at a latin american church that only does samba and salsa! LOL!

I’m not saying anything spectacular right now. I’d have to dig a little deeper. There’s the whole convo of being a multi-ethnic church and about being hospitable to others. There’s a lot happening with music, church, worship, with many different layers that includes theology and anthropology.

I think about how a church will have a particular musical genre value and sometimes it just feels imposed on me. Or the idea that I should like it and respond in exuberant praise. “Well, it’s not about the music Roy! It’s about Jesus. Stop being so difficult and superficial”. I’ve heard comments like this before. I wanna say, “Ok. You’re right! I’m sorry.” But I’m not sorry for sharing that I have zero joy in playing CCM stuff. I try my best at it but it’s not what I prefer.

I guess I’m just trying to figure out how I can play more multi-genre sets that capture different ways of experiencing God through music. I also want to be stretched as a musician and learn different genres that give me joy.

Here’s to hoping for different genres to be played at churches so that we can appreciate different cultures and tastes.

And here’s hoping to get more latin jazz, afro, jazz, experimental jazz, neo soul gigs that will help me grow as a musician.

Faithful Beyond Shame

The voice of shame distracts. Insecurities, self doubt, and fear hijack my brain, triggering an emotional spin cycle of depression, withdrawing, and infidelity. Yes, in my hijacked state, I become unfaithful to God’s purposes, vision, and call on my life. I fantasize about other ways to live my life, trying to run away from God. Why? Some say it’s because of spiritual oppressiveness. Other responses may be because of our brokenness. I think it’s all of these things AND my sense of desiring to be in control. If I could be in control and call the shots, then I begin to believe that I can control outcomes and other people. I can play being godlike.

When I squander the gifts and calling God has given, I become more shame-filled and withdraw. I become less of who God has designed me to be. I’m aching for deep communion with God and instead of responding with faithfulness and fruitfulness, I hide. I withdraw and nurse my shame and pain.

God longs for us to be faithful and fruitful, to the point where the Lord will get our attention in specific ways to get us to re-think and re-turn to Him. I’m grateful for all the “re” words in the Bible. God won’t give up on us. He’s committed to us and the redemption of this world. Living a life of faithfulness and fruitfulness is a steady, daily call. And it liberates us from bondage to shame and meaninglessness.

Strategies for Deep Work #2

[This post is part of a book review series on Deep Work, by Cal NewPort. See post 1 for a summary.]

In Newport’s chapter titled “Rule #1: Work Deeply”, he outlines strategies and principles to help us build rituals and rhythms to do deep work that stretches our personal abilities. This first rule is about reducing and removing distractions that prohibit us from doing deep work. I outlined his first strategy (see post 1) about deciding on a Depth Philosophy. Here’s a list of the strategies (I’ll only highlight a few):

  • Decide on your Depth Philosophy
  • Ritualize
  • Make Grand Gestures
  • Don’t Work Alone
  • Execute Like a Business
  • Be Lazy


This strategy is about adopting rituals (actions, gestures, intentions) that help to create and maintain regular patterns of deep work. Here are some of his examples:

  • Identify where you’ll work and for how long
  • Identify how you’ll work once you start to work
  • Identify how you’ll support your work

I found this principle helpful to continue focusing on my work habits and patterns of when and where and how I like to think and create. For me, I like the morning times. It’s when my brain is the sharpest to think critically. I also don’t check emails, social media, or respond to phone calls/text messages. No tech distractions. I also like sitting in my reading chair or my patio. Both are quiet and soothing places.

“Surrounding such efforts with a complicated (and perhaps, to the outside world, quite strange) ritual accepts this reality—providing your mind with the structure and commitment it needs to slip into the state of focus where you can begin to create things that matter.”

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 121). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Execute Like a Business

For this principle, Newport is now interested in HOW to execute strategy. What and how are two different set of questions. We may know that (what) we need to do, but not know HOW to execute it. For this, Newport refers to the book, “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” and then summarizes each discipline.

  • Discipline #1: Focus on the Wildly Important
    • identify a small number of ambitious goals (or outcomes) during deep work hours…with a tangible reward attached to it.
  • Discipline #2: Act on the Lead Measures
    • measure your success by focusing on activities that will improve behaviors that will impact your long term goals
  • Discipline #3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
    • have a way to publicly record and track your lead measures
  • Discipline #4: Create a Cadence of Accountability
    • review your weekly work and scoreboard to celebrate and make adjustments

Here’s one my favorite quotes from the above principle:

David Brooks endorsed this approach of letting ambitious goals drive focused behavior, explaining: “If you want to win the war for attention, don’t try to say ‘no’ to the trivial distractions you find on the information smorgasbord; try to say ‘yes’ to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing, and let the terrifying longing crowd out everything else.”

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 137). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Bringing it Home for Me

So how does this apply to me? I have a few areas that require some deep work:

  • church planting
  • corporate chaplaincy
  • music

Using the church planting area, my work is to focus on discovering what the wildy, ambitious goals are for a new church. For me, my goal isn’t to get a lot of people to a church service. It’s not even to tell people what to do. Part of my work is to discover what the wildy important goals are. They seem to be connected to justice, healthy relationships, and caring for leaders who have big ideas on how to transform our city to reflect God’s love.